Fennel-Orange Macarons

I’ve made macarons with all kinds of flavor combinations, from Cardamom Mint to Lemon Rose, Mocha Latte to Ginger Cream (see pictures here), but my absolute favorite is Fennel Orange.  Fennel, by nature, and in it’s raw state, is crunchy and sweet, and despite that sweetness, is typically served in savory dishes, from sliced in springtime salads to baked in the oven drenched in béchamel.  Not just delicious, fennel is rich in amino acids, iron, and essential oils; it stimulates digestion and reduces inflammation, allowing the oils to act as a natural antacid and sooth stomach irritation.  For these reasons, it isn’t uncommon in Italy and other Mediterranean countries for people to eat fennel after a meal (raw as it is, as a hot tea, or just chewing on a few seeds).

Considering the addition of all of the sugars that go into macarons, the marriage of fennel and orange in a dessert like this just makes sense.  Now, don’t be intimidated by the prospect of making the delicate, finicky macaron…You can totally do this.  Unlike so many other things I make, this is one recipe that demands patience, time, and precision.  I’ve created this recipe so that whether you are attempting for the first time or just want to try this crazy flavor, you can follow this step-by-step ritual to produce – crunchy on the outside – sweet, soft, chewy and creamy on the inside – macarons.  Buon Apetito!IMG_2536ingredienti (ingredients)

macaron:

3/4 cup almond flour

1 cup confectioners sugar

2 large egg whites

1/4 cup caster sugar

2 tbsp. fennel seeds

filling:

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup confectioners sugar

1/2 tbsp. orange blossom water

1 tsp. pure orange extract

1 tbsp. orange sanding sugar

procedamenti (directions)

Macaron Prep (makes approximately 40 to 50 discs to yield 20 – 25 macarons):

Begin by using an approximately 1″ in diameter round cookie cutter to trace your macaron shapes onto a piece of parchment paper.  Remember to lay your parchment “drawn side down” (the shape will still appear and serve as your guide).  Prepare two 13″ x 18″ baking sheets.  IMG_2505Process almond flour and confectioners sugar in a food processor for 20 seconds.  I used a BELLA Rocket Blender and it worked beautifully – it’s important not to over process.  IMG_2506IMG_2509

Set aside the almond flour mixture and process the fennel seeds (about 30 to 40 seconds) until pulverized.  Add to the almond flour mixture and sift into another bowl.  IMG_2515IMG_2512Using an electric stand mixer, whisk the egg whites until peaks are soft, not stiff (about 1 minute on the 6 setting).  IMG_2518Slowly add in the caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time, until meringue is glossy and forms stiff peaks (about 1 minute 30 seconds on the 6 setting).  IMG_2520IMG_2521Add one third of the almond powder mixture to the meringue and fold very gently.  Repeat by adding all of the dry mixture to the meringue (1/3 at a time).IMG_2523Continue folding, gently, until all ingredients are incorporated (took me about 2 minutes 30 seconds).  The batter should ribbon off of a spatula leaving a trail for about 30 seconds.IMG_2525IMG_2527Pipe rounds, starting on the perimeter and circling to the center – about 1 inch apart, using a round nozzle (I suggest 1/2″ or 1″ nozzles).IMG_2530Add garnish at this point, if desired, to half of the discs.  You can also use food coloring to make dots or swirl colors with a toothpick.  IMG_2532Remove air bubbles by tapping the sheets on a hard, flat surface, without disrupting the shape.  Remove any peaks that resulted from piping with a wet fingertip. Preheat oven to 325 F. Leave at room temperature for about 25 minutes.IMG_2531Bake one sheet at a time for about 10-15 minutes at 325 F, checking that they aren’t overcooking after about 5 minutes (if so, reduce heat).  Once the “foot” forms (the bubbly bottom crust of the macaron) and the tops form a ‘crust’ and not browned, they are ready.  Careful not to over cook or over brown.  Remove and cool for 10 minutes.

Filling Prep: 

Cream butter with confectioners sugar and cream, and then add extract, orange blossom water, and colored sugar.  Blend until fluffy and light orange – it will resemble frosting. IMG_2534Spoon into a piping bag and use a round (1″) or textured tip (depending on the look you are going for). IMG_2535Pipe onto one flat side of a macaron disc and sandwich with another.  If you used garnish, for example, a few fennel seeds, use these ones as the ‘tops.’

And…voila! French style macarons…fennel and orange – sweet and flavorful.  I like the fennel because sometimes macarons tend to all ‘taste the same.’  You’ll definitely notice the clean finish of the fennel balance with the pleasant tang of the orange.  I don’t like adding too much color, as my preference is a rustic, natural look.  However, if you are making for a theme, etc., add DRY colors – macarons need the least amount of moisture/liquid as possible.  IMG_2539

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